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Trump Calls On States To Establish 'Red Flag' Laws. Florida's Used Its Version Nearly 1,700 Times

Following mass shootings in Ohio and Texas President Donald Trump is calling on states to adopt laws temporarily preventing someone from accessing a gun. Florida already has such a law and is using it. Now two state lawmakers want to see the law expanded.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement doesn’t keep a running tally of how many times the state’s extreme risk law has been used but it does track how many orders are in the system at a given time. A spokesperson for the agency says as of July 24 th, there are 1,697 active risk protection orders. That represents temporary and permanent ones. The number can fluctuate as orders are entered and removed.

Florida established its risk protection law last year, following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland where 17 people were killed and another 17 wounded.  The law allows law enforcement to petition a judge to take away weapons from someone that could be a threat to themselves or others.

Florida’s law allows law enforcement to petition a judge to take away weapons from someone that could be a threat to themselves or others. Now Democratic Sen. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach and Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, have refiled a bill that would expand the petitioners to parents, legal guardians and other immediate family members.

“These senseless massacres could have an added piece of potential prevention if we simply allow those closest to those with mental illness an opportunity to come forward,” said Berman in a statement. “We are taught, if we see something, say something, yet that very principle is meaningless if the information shared lacks the ability to be enforced.”

“Reducing gun violence requires a multi-prong approach,” he said. “One area most legislators agree on is preventing people with mental health issues from carrying out the harming of themselves or others. Family members are best at recognizing warning signs and too often need to work directly with the courts. This is a bi-partisan bill that will greatly help reduce preventable gun violence," said Stark. 

Before the Parkland shooting, only five states had risk protection laws in place.  

Earlier this year,  Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw testified about Florida's law before a congressional panel. He said if the state's Red Flag Law had been in place, it may have prevented the Parkland shooting. The shooter had displayed several warning signs in the runup to the massacre."Now you've got to understand that the risk-protection orders are not something that law enforcement uses just to take everybody's guns. The Second Amendment is quite clear. I'm a big proponent of the Second Amendment, but my statement after that, which is backed up by the individual there for the National Institute of Mental Health, [was]: 'It's not so much the instrument that is the problem. It's whose hands you put the instrument in.' It could be a car, a rock, a knife, a pressure cooker, a gun, whatever it is ... if you have somebody that's unstable that has the propensity to commit violence it doesn't matter [what] the weapon [is]," said Bradshaw on WLRN's "Sundial"show in March. 

"I tried to get them back on track to say this is not a gun control issue as much as it is taking weapons out of the hands of people that have shown the propensity to go commit violence." 

Measures pending in Congress would provide federal funding to states with Red Flag laws. At least one study has shown such laws can reduce gun-related suicides. 

*Updated at 3:15 p.m. to note the filing of HB 114 that would expand potential petitioners to include family members and legal guardians. 

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.